What causes underarm itch?

Underarm itch may have many possible causes, including allergens (agents that cause allergies), infections, autoimmune disorders, or other causes such as stress.

Allergic causes of underarm itch

Underarm may be caused by contact dermatitis. Common triggers include:

  • Cosmetics, dyes or detergents
  • Industrial chemicals, such as those found in elastic, latex and rubber
  • Metallic substances (various metals, copper, wire)
  • Poison ivy or oak

Other allergic causes of underarm itch include:

  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by allergy)
  • Food allergies (allergic reactions to certain foods)
  • Insect bite allergy such as a bee sting

Infectious causes of underarm itch

Underarm itch can also be caused by infections including:

  • Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  • Chickenpox
  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by infection)
  • Pinworm
  • Scabies

Other causes of underarm itch

Underarm itch can be caused by other conditions such as:

  • Extreme cold or heat
  • Medications
  • Neurodermatitis (extreme itching)
  • Pregnancy
  • Psoriasis
  • Stress

Serious or life-threatening causes of underarm itch

In some cases, underarm itch may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Chronic renal failure (also called chronic kidney disease)
  • Obstructive biliary disease (obstruction of the bile ducts)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of underarm itch

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your itch including:

  • When did the itching begin?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Do you have any known allergies?
  • Do you feel otherwise healthy?
  • Have you tried any new products recently, such as soaps, perfumes, sprays or deodorants?
  • Have you spent a lot of time outdoors lately?
  • Does scratching make it better or worse?

What are the potential complications of underarm itch?

An itch is not usually serious, but it’s important to determine its underlying cause and rule out a serious infection. Once the underlying cause of your itch is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications, including secondary infections, which may develop from scratching and related skin trauma.


Itching. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/itching.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.

Pruritus. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_pruritus.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.


What is underarm itch?

An underarm itch is a tickling, irritating sensation accompanied by the persistent need to scratch your underarm. The medical term for itching is pruritus. Redness, swelling, soreness, flaking and scarring may occur in the area of itchiness. Although scratching may temporarily relieve your symptoms, it can cause more irritation or lead to an infection. With most cases of itching, it is bes... Read more about underarm itchintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with underarm itch?

Underarm itch may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause underarm itch may also involve other body systems.... Read more about underarm itchsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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